Tag Archives: art & tech

Favorites from 2017

I know I’m a little late to the “best of 2017” party, but I think something is better than nothing! At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. In fact, this year I’m resolving to be kinder myself and my body. I’m releasing some of my many responsibilities and prioritizing a few others. Sadly, this blog is on the chopping block. I love writing posts, but it takes a lot of time and it stresses me out when I can’t post. So, I’m being gentler with my psyche and letting these posts linger. I have one lined up for in two weeks, but after that…well, I’m not making any promises.

I managed to finish my penguin drawing.

Favorite Books of 2017

These books weren’t published in 2017, but were books that I found interesting and inspirational when I came across them this past year.

  1. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (and sequels) — I don’t know how this juvenile series escaped my noticed. However, we have since corrected that issue and my boys and I have each taken to these novels. I love all of the literary references!
  2. Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James — Just to prove that smart, witty women read (and love) Romance novels, I’m including a favorite series that I re-read this year. In this tumultuous and scary political climate, I really needed some happy endings.
  3. Designing Your Life — I love this book for its “design thinking” approach to career and life development. There is no “what’s your end goal,” but rather a way of looking at your life (and career) as a work in progress. I liked the exercises and approach of this book so much that I included some of these concepts in my college class, Intro to College Success.
  4. Art Lab for Kids — Although the kids and I slacked off on completing more of the projects in this book, the ones we did complete were fabulous! I really liked that each and every one of these projects was simple, but worthwhile. You can check out a few of our projects here.

Favorite Artisan Posts of 2017

  1. SCBWI Art Challenge — This is one of my favorite posts because it represents a change in focus for me and my interests. My art still needs work, but I have found my “posse” in SCBWI.  This organization is a major favorite of mine for 2017 (and 2018)!
  2. Elementary Electronics Series (Homemade LED bracelet) — I had forgotten that I conducted an elementary electronics class last Spring (was that really in 2017)? In doing so, I created a make your own LED bracelet pattern to help the kiddos understand circuits. Fun!
  3. FETC 2017 — Last January, I presented a poster session at FETC. This poster showcased how a teacher can use Scratch to learn about other content areas (not just computer programming).
  4. Minds Maps for Learning — This is another favorite post because I realized (this year) how much I truly love making mind maps. They are a fabulous way to combine learning (and remembering) with artistic design.
a colored picture of a mind map for the book, The Magic Words by Cheryl B. Klein

I used color pencils to complete the map.

Favorite Curriculum Used in 2017

  1. Improve Your Painting: Luminous Watercolor Mixing by Kateri Ewing. I think taking art classes in person are the best way to learn, but when that’s not an option (due to finances, time, location…or all three in my case), Craftsy classes have filled that void quite nicely. I have taken many of their classes and only one was a dud (and even then I learned something…just not as much as I would have liked). They are much more interesting than Udemy art classes and most of them have lots of hands-on projects, which is a must for me. My current classes are Perspective for Sketchers and Developing Your Main Character. I can’t recommend them enough (and no, they don’t pay me to say that).
  2. Meet the Masters Art and Art History Series for Kids — We are on our next set of artists, but since my 8-year-old is the only homeschooler left in the house, we bought the 8-9-year-old pack. I like that there are a number of simple drawing/art techniques to try before doing the final project. I also like that I can make my own projects. Check out our lesson on Impressionists.
  3. Story of the World — I’ve been using this series for seven years. It brings history alive, and when combined with juvenile historical novels…well, the subject just teaches itself.

I’m sure that if given more time, I could come up with a much longer list. However, I think in this case, less is more. I really enjoyed looking back and focusing on the positive things in 2017. Thanks for indulging me.

Book Review :: Minecraft for Makers

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle. This post reviews the book, Minecraft for Makers.

A picture of the book, Minecraft for Makers Don’t mind the fact that this post has Halloween pictures, and…it’s almost Thanksgiving. We have been crazy busy -thankfully with good things- but that means very little time to publish thoughtful posts. However, I’m pushing forward and slowly making my way through an ever-expanding pile of MAKE books. I’m on the publisher’s list for certain MakerMedia book reviews. Often, a cardboard package will be waiting on our front porch and it’s always a race to see who opens the package first.

I can’t remember which child (or adult) opened this particular package, but I know I was the last person to sit down with this book. Oh, the delighted squeals that came from my family when they looked at the cover. A Minecraft book? for makers? You could pair anything with Minecraft and my boys would be all over it. This book was no exception.

A picture of a kid using a hot glue gun to create a Miinecraft for Maker inspired cube.

We always have popsicle sticks and hot glue on hand. I like these supplies because once the boys are tired of them, they burn nicely in our yearly bonfire.

Baichtal, John. Make: Minecraft for Makers: Minecraft in the Real World with LEGO, 3D Printing, Arduino, and More. MakerMedia: San Fransisco, 2017.

Target Audience: Older teens and makers in the their 20s. People with access to a local Makerspace.

Minecraft for Makers

My oldest son, 12, held onto it the longest. He is my biggest Minecraft player, and he is also in charge of the family Minecraft server. Although Dad submits the occasional help ticket, Ronan resets the server and installs the latest updates. Two years ago, he was the one who begged me for McEdit, a program that allows you to create Tinkercad drawings and import them into your local Minecraft world. It’s not a surprise my hands-on kid would be drawn to a Minecraft maker book. It was practically made just for him!

Except…it was a bit above his skill level. A lot of the projects combine some pretty cool, but expensive, hardware. The few simple projects rely on laser cutter access or Arduino programming knowledge. There’s also the small issue of referring to GitHub – where all of the book’s files are kept – with no instructions on how to use GitHub in this capacity. I’m a novice GitHub user and didn’t really want to create an account (FYI- you don’t need to create an account, but I couldn’t manipulate the size of the image without it).  I would have preferred a link to the Maker Media site. As far as audience goes, this book is definitely geared toward the high school or college programmer (or just out of college…seeing as how much the supplies cost).

Hacking Minecraft for Makers

Since the kids were a little overwhelmed at the “proper” projects, we chose to be inspired by the book instead. Halloween was quickly approaching so the kids took one look at the Minecraft Jack O’Lantern project and decided to create a replica, based on the supplies we had on hand. That means we didn’t use the AdaFruit NeoPixel Jewel or an Arduino (even though we own a RedBoard). For the non-Arduino user, Baichtal recommended the Flickery Flame Kit, but it wouldn’t have arrived in time for Halloween. The kids decided to use tiny LED candles, leftover from last Halloween. In short, this small-town family did what any maker (without Amazon Prime or a local Makerspace) would do: we improvised.

A picture of a cube covered in orange paper with a Minecraft faace cut out of it.

R, age 11, created this larger version of a Minecraft Jack O’Lantern.

I was the one stuck passing out candy while my husband, and the neighborhood dads, took the kids trick or treating. I can tell you that every costumed elementary and middle schooler commented on these lanterns. They immediately recognized them as Minecraft Jack O’Lanterns. They were almost as interested in them as the treats I was passing out.

A picture of a small wooden cube covered in orange paper to resemle a Minecraft Jack O'Lantern.

My two boys worked together on this one. C, age 8, built the frame and glued on the paper while his older brother used the exacto knife to cut out the face.

Finding the Right Audience

If my boys were older, I could see them tackling more of the projects in this book. They would be able to do them on their own – with very little help from the adults. However, most of the projects required a steady hand and some upper-level “maker” knowledge, not to mention a credit card to purchase supplies. This book wasn’t right for our family, but I could think of a couple of teenage boys who might be interested…

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. If you’d like to see my other (non-compensated) reviews of Make titles, check out Making Makers, Making Simple Robots, and Tinkering.

 

Book Review :: Musical Inventions

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

a picture of the book, Musical Inventions, by Kathy Ceceri

Make has such pretty books these days. All of Ceceri’s books have been printed with color pictures.

It always takes me a long time to review a book. I need to let it sit on my desk for awhile. I want the information to turn over in my head, which allows my brain to make connections to my prior knowledge. I hate shallow reviews. I understand that time is often, of the essence, but it’s difficult to trust a person’s word if they’ve only had the book for a week or so. I mean, how can you know if the book is any good if it hasn’t sat with you for awhile? I have let Kathy Ceceri’s latest book, Musical Inventions, sit on my desk for quite a few months. All in the name of authenticity…

Musical Inventions by Kathy Ceceri

While there is some truth to the above statement, there is also a funny set of events that contributed to its floundering on my desk beneath an important set of papers. It started with a bit of bad timing. When this lovely book arrived on my doorstep in May, we had one foot out the door, in anticipation of a wonderful three-week vacation (which included Washington, DC, Pennsylvania and Quebec). When we returned, I immediately began teaching at summer camp. Following that madness, the Fall semester began at the college where I work…and thus, I’m just now publishing this review.

It’s a long-winded excuse, yes? Sigh. In some ways, it is. I was hoping to get the book reviewed earlier, but I also wanted to try out more of the projects. It seems there’s never enough time to do all of the projects – just a few. Ha! As if I needed a fun, hands-on book to tell me that my life is full.

Plus, I have to confess a little secret: music isn’t really my thing. Oh sure, I love singing along to Hamilton as much as the rest of my family, but when it comes to sound, noise and music, my guitar-playing husband is the one who brings such beauty to our home.

So I did what any sensible, non-musical person would do: I handed the book over to my husband and asked him to try out some of the projects with the kids.

DIY Instruments to Toot, Tap, Crank, Strum, Pluck and Switch On

Ceceri, Kathy. Make: Musical Inventions: DIY Instruments to Toot, Tap, Crank, Strum, Pluck, and Switch On. Make Media: San Fransisco, 2017. Target Audience: science, music & homeschool teachers; parents of upper elementary, middle and high school students.

As with all of Ceceri’s Make books, this tome includes a lot of fun, hands-on projects coupled with real-life connections to individuals and scientific concepts. It only took a few pages before I was hooked. In the first chapter, she mentioned the discovery of a 42,000 year-old flute, found in a cave in 2012. It was made from the tusk of a woolly mammoth. That is so cool! People have been making music for thousands of years. Art and music have always been a part of our culture. Just like the cave art in Lascaux.

After a brief description of the history of music, she goes on to describe how sound works, in addition to the basics of music theory and notation. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a simple book. It’s not. Although the projects are for beginners, there is some heavy teaching going on within these pages. I could definitely see a middle or high school teacher using some of these projects to demonstrate physical science concepts.

Packing Tape Bass Drum

a picture of a hand-made drum from the book, Musical Inventions

A little bit of tape and some popcorn makes a nice drum set.

Since I handed the book off to my musically-inclined husband, all I had to do was sit back, quietly observe, and wait to snap a few pictures. During a long weekend break, my husband pulled out the book and proceeded to test out the “Packing Tape Bass Drum” project. It was the perfect time for a project: the kids were restless and we had all of the materials on hand [clear packing (or masking) tape, a can opener and two round cans (or plastic cups)].

They easily made the drums, which were happily taken home by our neighbor, a girl who lives across the street. She also has a musically-inclined father and I hope they played a duet later that evening.

a picture of two homemade drums made out of tape and clear plastic drink glasses, from the book, Musical Inventions.

My hubby improvised with some of the materials, but the result was the same: homemade drums.

My husband also messed around with the “Turntable Water Glasses” project, but I was too slow to capture it on camera. All told, this book could keep a family busy for days. It would also be a great start for a new science concept, or a way to cap off an in-depth project-based learning physics course. For me, I found the projects on circuit bending to be the most interesting…and hope to mess around with those in the future. If you are impatient, or want to try out one of her projects before grabbing the book, check out her tutorial on creating a low-tech music box.

Maker Movement and Learning

I have long been a fan of Ceceri’s work. As a former homeschool mom, she has created lots of interesting projects that connect learning with real-life applications. Science (and history and writing) are fascinating, but only if a student can make those connections. It’s only stimulating if a student is interested. I think the maker movement gives students a reason to be excited. I hope that every parent considers purchasing one of these books for their child’s teacher…and offers to provide some of the supplies, as well.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. If you’d like to see my other (non-compensated) reviews of Make titles, check out Making Makers, Making Simple Robots, and Tinkering.

 

Programming Art with Scratch :: Sunset

This past summer I repeated my role as Scratch programming instructor. I was flattered to hear  I had a number of returning students. Unfortunately, that meant my standard plan of activities needed to be enhanced for those experienced students. I needed some new assignments! For this course (Create with Scratch), I focused on art and music, rather than video game creation. Therefore, I needed projects that combined programming art with Scratch, the icon-based language designed for kids.

It’s fun thinking of new projects, but I wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to create an example (or find some child to create one for me). Often, a teacher-created example can intimidate students. I usually try to have student examples, like this volcano.

C's animated volcano in Scratch

I uploaded C’s volcano animation. Check it out: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/108661198/

For my recent project addition, I didn’t have a chance to obtain student examples. My family and I were traveling this past summer and we only got home a few days before camp began. I decided to do the creating – in class – while the students worked on their own animations.

Setting Sun Art Animation — Scratch

After a few days of introductory lessons, I asked the students to make an animated volcano  (which we did last year). Since I focused more on the art of animations, I wanted the students to make another complex animation. I suggested a setting or rising sun. I showed a few sun examples from the Scratch web site, and I set out to create my own.

A few students made simple animations while others spent multiple class periods getting their pictures “just right.” It took me a few class sessions to finish my initial animation, especially since I was needed to help other students. I went back and “fixed” it during the second round of classes.

I hope my students watched as I made mistakes and went back to change my programming. It certainly demonstrated the value of revising one’s work. If anything, they picked up a couple of new art and programming techniques to use with Scratch. Finally, I hope they had fun creating their own animations and were inspired to make others.

Visiting the Art of the Brick

Last weekend, my family and I met up with friends (and more family) to see the “Art of the Brick.” This free show, held in Tampa, displayed a number of pieces by artist, Nathan Sawaya.  The catch? All of the art was constructed with LEGO bricks.

A picture of a LEGO replica of part of the Bayeux Tapestry, made by the brick artist.

Sawaya’s work included replicas of 2D art, as well as original 3D sculptures. This is part of the Bayeux Tapestry ( a personal favorite of mine).

LEGO Art – The Art of the Brick

I have seen pictures of his work, but it was quite amazing to see it in person. The sheer number of LEGOS required for each sculpture was astounding! Most ranged in the thousands.

Obviously, we have a love for LEGO in this family, but I found Sawaya’s introductory video inspiring. He declared that art is not optional. In a world where we focus more and more on academic subjects and social media, art is often dropped from the school curriculum or brushed aside for more money-making ventures. Or worse, it’s turned into an academic subject itself — no creating required.

a picture of the sculpture of Degas Littel Dancer, made out of LEGOS by artist Nathan Sawaya

What if high school students had to collaborate (in math or science class) to make this? After learning about Degas, of course.

Well, art isn’t going to feed you.

I understand. We need people to clean up after ourselves. We need doctors and researchers. We need teachers. We even need a few lawyers to protect people, but I would argue that suing someone doesn’t adequately feed one, either. I am satisfied with my paid job, but I must create beautiful things.

What would happen if we, as a society, figured out our bare necessities (healthy food, safe shelter, attractive sustainable clothing, books/knowledge, and creative hobby pursuits) and eliminated the filler? Do I need to spend my time with people on Facebook? Twitter? Do I want to encourage the proliferation of social media for self-promotion’s sake?

All of us have wonderful things to contribute to our communities. Why is it so hard to do that well? The shy among us hope to get lucky in our creative careers, but unless we promote ourselves, we lose out. Imagine if we could wear the same thing for five days (all clean, of course) and spend the rest of our time making art (fully recyclable and sustainable art, of course).

I wish I was brave enough to wear the same thing everyday for a week. Of course, one could argue that fashion is a creative display of art. Ahem.

Creativity & Mental Health

There are some theories suggesting we aren’t creative enough and it’s hurting our mental health. We need to make things as young children (painting, drawing, building, playing music, reconstructing engines, etc.) to become productive adults. We need to lighten the social media burden. I choose to do that with visual art. I make my own art and I encourage my kids to do the same. Their chosen medium has been LEGO bricks (see The Brick Chronicles). It makes my heart smile to see the connection they make with a fellow artist. Art does matter — and I encourage you to support it.

a picture of the statue of liberty made out of LEGO bricks

In June, we saw this LEGO sculpture at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Check out this video on how it was constructed (not created, but actually put together).

 

 

Art Lab :: Minecraft Paper Sculptures

As part of our ongoing series, the boys are testing projects from the book, Art Lab for Kids. This week’s lab: paper sculptures. They don’t have to be Minecraft-related, but in my house, Minecraft is always on the brain. The kids’ brains anyway, not mine.

Check out the past Art Lab posts: book review and reverse color underpainting.

a picture of a paper Minecraft sword. Inspried by the book, Art Lab for Kids

C, age 8, made a Minecraft sword. All of those cuts too him a long time….not to mention the stapling!

Minecraft Paper Sculptures

So…you may be thinking: Minecraft, eh? I thought they were learning about art!

Yes, it seems like they just made toys for this particular lab, but the concept was the same. They created a stuffed paper sculpture, but instead of a fish (the given example), they took a familiar idea and ran with it. Even though I do try to discourage consumerism and branding, this was a great pairing. (Besides, I may have a thing for Harry Potter and the Florida Gators…some branding is allowed, and possibly encouraged). Anyway, the boys were super excited about this lab, and they had to use the design thinking process to figure out how their sculptures were going to work.

 

a picture of a green construction paper being used for paper minecraft sculptures. Inspired by the book, Art Lab for Kids.

R (age 11) made a complicated creeper and had to sketch out his design ahead of time.

Crafting to Retain Information

It should be no surprise that we do a lot of arts and crafts at our house. What I find surprising is how much information my kids retain when they make something. Our crafting isn’t just limited to “art time.” Over the years, we have done a number of suggested crafts from our social studies curriculum, Story of the World. During the weeks when we “crafted,” the boys remembered the event much more clearly. I think it has something to do with the generative process of using information to create something new.

We are definitely one of those families that takes time to make things. We don’t cover as much material, but the topics are easily recalled.

a picture of paper sculpture Minecraft creeper and diamond sword

Creeper made by R, age 11. Sword made by C, age 8.

**This post was originally published on June 19, 2017. Sadly, it was deleted from the site when my server was switched. I have finally fixed the issue. (P.S. Don’t use GoDaddy for web site hosting. Their customer service is awful). **

Art Lab for Kids :: Reverse Color Underpainting

The kids and I have been making our way through the book, Art Lab for Kids. This week’s featured lab: reverse color underpainting. (Check out the Art Lab book review post).

a kid's painting of a seaside using reverse color from art lab

R’s landscape painting. He used the reverse color underpainting technique.

Underpainting

According to Jerry’s Art Arama, “underpainting is a first layer of paint applied to a canvas or board and it functions as a base for other layers of paint. It acts as a foundation for your painting and is a great way to start your painting off with some built in contrast and tonal values.” For a more advanced explanation, see how the old masters used this technique.

The masters used oil-based paints, but my kids use acrylic paint and watercolor paper. They are practicing, so there’s no need to have a stack of canvas boards laying around! I like how Susan Schwake (Art Lab author) showed a completed example for this lab. My oldest son wanted to do something similar, but it was up to us to figure out what colors to use for his underpainting.

a picture of a boy sketching from a picture on the ipad. Inspired by the book Art Lab for Kids

We found a landscape picture online which looked similar to the example given in the book.

All told, this was a fabulous art lab. He learned a new technique and created some cool art. Plus, he had to wait between layers, so it reinforced the idea that art can (and should) be a multi-day project. There’s no need to complete a piece in one sitting.

a picture of a boy painting with acrylic paints. Inspired by the book, Art Lab for Kids

Since we didn’t print out the picture, R write down the colors he wanted.

Of course, now I want to add some Chibitronic LED stickers to this landscape. Wouldn’t it look great with a flashing buoy in the distance?

a kid's painting of a seaside using reverse color from art lab

Impressionist Art With Kids

The Florida weather has been gorgeous, but it won’t be long before it’s stifling and humid…at nine o’clock in the morning! Taking advantage of the cooler temperatures, we grabbed an old table and took our painting outside. We were practicing painting – en plein air – a perfect compliment for our study of Claude Monet (the last artist from the Meet The Masters series). After watching the slide show, I knew we were going to do some impressionist-inspired art. However, I was a little hesitant since this lesson wasn’t my favorite (too simplified). Thankfully, the art activities stretched my kids’ abilities. It forced them to think like impressionists.

a picture of kids doing impressionist art with kids

Everyone has a space, but still need to share water…

Impressionist Art with Kids

We skipped the “make a color wheel with crayons” activity; instead, we chose to jump right into making an impressionist painter’s palette – using only red, yellow and blue.

a picture of completed painted impressionist art with kids

These are my samples from the provided “Meet the Masters” lessons. I got the kids started and then finished after they were done. I noticed they were looking at my colors and just copying, so I gave them a chance to think about it on their own.

This was a great activity for my youngest (who just turned eight), as he was a little shaky on the difference between primary and secondary colors. For my oldest, it was a great way to stretch his thinking by asking him to create “mixed” colors – without mixing them! Impressionists tried (try?) to lay their colors side-by-side so one gets a wide variety of color with very little formal mixing.

Final Project – Impressionist Watering Can

a picture of a kid drawing amidst a table covered with paint supplies.

C starts his watering can painting – with a pencil sketch.

We never made it to the formal, final lesson in this series. I think it was a impressionist re-creation of some flowers. Instead, I asked the kids if there was something they might like to try and paint  – in the style of an impressionist. My oldest (age 11) chose to do his own realistic painting, but my youngest was open to trying something new. He looked around, and simultaneously, both our gazes locked onto the plastic watering can that resides at the front of the house.

We brought it to the table, and he quickly sketched its shape. Then, he began painting. He asked for some black paint (to make gray), but we talked about how the impressionists didn’t use black…how was he going to compensate? Would he imagine it in a completely different color, such as bright pink? Would he try and make a mixture of white and blue – to replicate the soft gray? I was so impressed with his willingness to try something new – especially since he couldn’t quite imagine it in his head.

a picture of an impressionist-inspired watering can - doing impressionist art with kids

Drawn, painted and imagined by C, age 8.

Learn More About Claude Monet

Like I said earlier, Monet was the last artist left in our subscription for the Meet the Masters series. However, we dragged our feet on undertaking this study…I think because we felt we already knew his work. Two years ago, a Monet exhibition came to our university’s art museum and we did an entire study of Monet.  We read books (Linnea in Monet’s Garden & The Magical Garden of Claude Monet), and dabbed paint onto our canvases. We visited the museum and saw real Monet paintings. It made quite an impression (ha – I couldn’t help myself). Regardless, we thought we knew all there was to know about impressionist art for kids.  I’m glad we were wrong. Everyone picked up something new with these lessons. Plus, it reinforced the brain connections from our earlier study. (For those without access to the Meet the Masters series, try this lesson from The Getty Museum).

Reviewing the Meet the Masters Series

Back in November, I purchased “Track A” of the Meet the Masters series of artists. This track included Vincent Van Gogh, Mary Cassat, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet. I have been both impressed and disappointed with the accompanying activities for this series. (I bought ages 8-9). Sometimes, they seemed too simple, but often they were completely appropriate. I really liked the slide shows and the breakdown of artistic activities, but next time – I’ll be purchasing the curriculum for ages 10 and up.

Combining Art & Tech

On a final note, we took our impressionist study just a bit further with the use of the app, Chatterpix. While attending FETC, I participated in a session given by art and tech teachers from a Colorado charter elementary school. They were presenting past school projects that combined art with tech. Chatterpix was one of the apps they mentioned, and I downloaded it that evening.  It’s funny, goofy, and yet easy enough for my eight-year-old to use on his own. Of course, the teachers used it for hand-painted portraits of historical figures…but I’ll work with what I’ve got: a talking, impressionist-inspired watering can. Art is subjective, right?

FYI – I am not compensated for my opinion of Meet the Masters; it’s just a curriculum we’ve used for the last five months. When trying to decide how to spend my limited homeschool budget, I prefer reviews that are comprehensive (rather than shallow overviews). It’s my hope this review will be helpful to fellow art teachers and/or homeschoolers.

Harry Potter Art

Sometimes the stars align, the sibling squabbles cease, and everyone is content to do the same thing at the same time. It didn’t hurt that the topic was Harry Potter. This beloved fantasy series ignites all sorts of childhood (and adult) interest. So it was no surprise that we all did some Harry Potter art for a friend’s upcoming birthday party.

A little rummaging in the “card-making box” and R unearthed some Harry Potter stickers.

Hogwarts Castle

A few days before the party I asked the kids what type of card they wanted to make for their friend. Did they want to try and draw something? a castle? Harry? a house-elf?

My youngest son, recently into all artistic endeavors, decided that he would like to draw a castle. Hmm…okay. Would you like to find a reference picture or maybe a YouTube video?

“Definitely a YouTube video of Hogwarts,” he said. So, we did.

C (age 7) watched a line drawing of a YouTube video and made this drawing.

After he finished, we took it to the copier, shrunk it down and created a card for the birthday girl. Meanwhile, my oldest son started free drawing and came up with a respectable looking castle. Apparently, all of those Mark Kistler drawing lessons have been paying off!

C’s shrunken drawing becomes the front of a card while R’s hand-drawn castle is the start of his magical world.

More Harry Potter Art

While they continued to add more and more stickers to their cards, I was working on my gesture sketches. I haven’t drawn a lot of people, but have recently been working my way through a Craftsy class on drawing children for children’s book. I took this opportunity to quickly sketch Harry and the sorting hat.

R incorporated his stickers to become part of a wizard’s home, while I practiced rough sketching Harry Potter at the sorting.

All told – we spent hours drawing, playing and talking about Harry Potter. I’m glad I let myself relax and enjoy the afternoon doing some art with my boys. I know they liked it too.

 

Elementary Electronics – Sewn LED bracelet

As part of our homeschool elementary electronics class, the kids wanted to finish up the class by making soft circuits, especially a sewn LED bracelet.

And I do mean kids because I specifically asked them – after the sewn flashlight difficulties if they were up to another round of sewing. They said yes. In fact, one fifth grader (who struggled a little with the sewing) said, “Well – I don’t know how to do it and that’s the point of learning, right? To try stuff you aren’t good at?” Oh, you could have melted my growth mindset heart!

A picture of three electronic bracelets.

Our family’s collection of hand-sewn LED bracelets.

After the success of the Chibitronics paper LED project, I knew this sewing design had to be more concrete and guided. A couple of hours (and one failed prototype) later), I had a structured lesson to present to the kids the next day.

Sewn LED Bracelet – Paper Prototype

I started by making a paper prototype. This way they could cut it out and see how their bracelet would fit together. The components would have to be placed a certain way so the bracelet could close and you could still see the LED. I also wanted to make it so that when they snapped it closed, the circuit closed and the LED lit up.

Hand-drawn paper prototype to give the kids a guide.

It was definitely helpful to have a paper guide for the students. So many of them wanted to jump ahead and try and figure it out – and that was okay. It was okay when we had to pull out their conductive thread because the circuit wouldn’t make any sense. Hopefully, those were learning moments for them. Mistakes always force us to look at the structure a little more carefully.

Hot glue guns help to move the project along.

Sewn LED bracelet – Process

My younger son and I had made his LED bracelet the night before class – for two reasons. First, I knew that I would need to help the other students and since he’s seven, he would need a lot of help. Second, I wanted to have a simple, finished product so the students could see how the circuits connected.

After everyone chose their LED and figured out how their battery pack worked, I brought them over – one-by-one-  to the hot gluing station. I glued their battery holder and snaps to the felt. This made it much easier for these elementary students to focus on sewing – without having to worry about pins keeping those components in place.

The hardest part was understanding how the battery would be connected to the LED. Since LEDs have be positioned a certain way (positive to positive), I went around to each student and made sure they would line up their LED correctly. They eventually figured it out and even though this class took an hour and a half – every single bracelet connected correctly. And they were so proud (and relieved?) that it lit up after all of their hard work.

Here’s the PDF Sewn LED bracelet (PDF) handout that I created for my students. If you are teacher, please feel free to use it, but do not reproduce or sell it without gaining permission. Thanks!